Visitors always compare Livingston with Puerto Barrios across the bay, and the former wins hands down, for its sultry, seductive Caribbean flavor. Wooden houses, many on stilts, congregate in this old fishing town, once an important railroad hub, but today inaccessible by land from the outside world. Although it sits on the mainland, Livingston might as well be a Caribbean island—the culture seems closer to that of Jamaica than to the rest of Guatemala. Livingston proudly wears its Garífuna heritage on its sleeve. The culture is unique to Central America's eastern coast, and descends from the intermarriage of African slaves with Caribbean indigenous peoples.
Although it is not, Livingston might also just as well be an island. No roads connect the town with the rest of Guatemala, boats providing the only access. Livingston's single paved road is the only evidence left of its heyday as a major port for coffee and other crops during the late 19th century. Livingston's population now makes its living mostly from fishing. By day the soft lick of waves on the shore measures out the slow pace that makes this laid-back community so attractive. At night roving bands of musicians take to the streets.
Anyone expecting white-sand beaches and azure waters is bound to be disappointed. The narrow beach that stretches north from the river mouth is not especially attractive. It is, however, a great place to explore, as it is home to several bars and a little shop where Pablo Marino sells handmade drums, shakers, and wood carvings. Afternoon breezes off the ocean make resting on the beach a good place to pass the torrid afternoons. Once you arrive here, shed your worries and settle under a coconut palm.